5 Things Wrong With This EU Referendum

This referendum could be an enjoyable exercise in democracy - encouraging the public to exercise and stretch their brains and hearts to find the right decision for them and their families.

1.16 - 18 year olds are isolated.

Let's be blunt: we've completely missed out on an untapped wealth of insight and influence by not extending the voting franchise to 16 - 18 year olds. Take Scotland; a brave and bold leap to invite young people into the process and oh, guess what, it paid off! 75% of young people turned out to vote. We need to stop patronising young people thinking this is "too big a decision for them". At 16 they can work, start a business, pay taxes, have sex but they can't participate in deciding what kind of future country they want to live in when arguably this vote affects them the most? We've completely disregarded political education in schools. We then expect at 18 young people will be able to make informed decisions. We make assumptions that they are apathetic when they don't turn out to vote and in turn perpetuate the cycle by not investing in them and their voices.

2.It's been hijacked by party politics.

By allowing politicians to front these campaigns we've brought their agendas into the arena. Instead of allowing a neutral space for us to reflect on what it means to be European we have charged the campaigning with 'left/right' rhetoric and faces. With Gove and Cameron spearheading the key arguments, we're left wondering what impact our decision might have on our UK government. Will voting Out sway a resignation from Cameron? Will voting In mean we strengthen his resolve? The decision has become bombarded with red and blue imagery, language and figureheads.

3.Not everything can be quantified or measured by a statistic.

You can't measure identity in numbers. You can't value unity and peace in a pie chart. This referendum is not just about the financial implication of being in the EU, or border controls or mobile phone tariffs, it's about the kind of country we want to be a part of, how we want to interact with the rest of our world and how we define our own identities. Some decisions are instinctual, emotional and personal. It depends on where your parents were born, what their experiences of growing up were like, how often you've travelled, where you studied and grew up. This is a complex decision; far more intuitive, impassioned and philosophical than the people charged to educate us on the topic make it out to be.

4. The information is buried in fancy campaigning and fearmongering.

Young people are switched off from loaded jargon, misleading facts and figures and complex calculations (seriously, search how GDP is measured). It's become so difficult to even compare data against each other as each side twists and tweaks in a way that suits their agenda. Propaganda-stacked statements attack the public's 'pain points'; national security, the NHS and employment are being used as a weapon as opposed to a tool for education.

5.It's boring.

Why are we so bland when it comes to engaging the public in political decision making? Putting the poorly designed yet richly funded campaign materials aside, we are lacking imagination in one of the most effervescent debates of our time. We recycle the same voices in our media, flipflopping from CEOs of multinationals to politicians to the older generation. We need to put effort into conversations with marginalised voices so that they can figure out and articulate their feelings. We need to make use of our creative minds and find new ways to stimulate the nuance in the debate liked this Data Rave happening in Birmingham. This referendum could be an enjoyable exercise in democracy - encouraging the public to exercise and stretch their brains and hearts to find the right decision for them and their families.


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